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June 23, 2016 0

13th U.S. Resident Linked to Islamic Extremism in 2016

Akram Musleh of Indiana, arrested for attempting to travel to join ISIS

Akram Musleh

Akram Musleh, an 18-year-old res­i­dent of Browns­burg, Indi­ana, was arrested on June 21 for attempt­ing to travel to join ISIS. Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Musleh had been engag­ing with ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda since at least 2013, when Musleh was a 15-year-old high school student.

Accord­ing to author­i­ties, the FBI first came into con­tact with Musleh after it was dis­cov­ered that he posted three videos of Anwar al-Awlaki to YouTube in August 2013. Awlaki, an Amer­i­can cleric and English-language pro­pa­gan­dist for Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, was killed in a drone strike in 2011, but his speeches and quotes remain pop­u­lar among extrem­ist indi­vid­u­als and those rad­i­cal­iz­ing today. Indeed, the major­ity of U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism since 2011 have allegedly down­loaded mate­r­ial cre­ated by Awlaki or shared his speeches and state­ments on social media.

Upon find­ing the Awlaki speeches, court doc­u­ments indi­cate that the FBI met with offi­cials at Musleh’s high school, and coor­di­nated with them to dis­cour­age Musleh from radicalizing.

Follow-up took place at Musleh’s school. It is unclear whether any mea­sures could have been effec­tive in Musleh’s case; he had allegedly obtained infor­ma­tion on Awlaki from a fam­ily mem­ber, and so appar­ently had at least one close per­sonal con­tact encour­ag­ing his rad­i­cal­iza­tion. In any event, the mea­sures unfor­tu­nately failed.

In April 2014, court doc­u­ments indi­cate that Musleh asked minors at a park if they wanted to join ISIS. In 2015, Musleh allegedly made mul­ti­ple attempts to travel to Turkey or Iraq, areas adja­cent to ISIS-controlled ter­ri­tory that are often used ini­tially as des­ti­na­tions for indi­vid­u­als attempt­ing to join the group. In 2016, he allegedly researched attack tar­gets and explo­sive mate­ri­als, and then tried again to travel to join ISIS, this time in Libya, where the group has an active fac­tion. He was arrested en route from Indi­ana to New York, where he allegedly intended to catch a plane from John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tional Airport.

Musleh is not the only U.S. res­i­dent to rad­i­cal­ize while still in high school. In 2015, 4 minors in the U.S. were linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy. They are among a total of 25 U.S. res­i­dents aged 21 or younger linked to such activ­ity that year. Seven U.S. teenagers were linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2014.

In recog­ni­tion of this dis­turb­ing trend, ADL has released a series of resources for edu­ca­tors and school admin­is­tra­tors that pro­vide back­ground infor­ma­tion about extrem­ism and mass vio­lence among school-aged indi­vid­u­als and mate­ri­als for cre­at­ing resilience among their stu­dents. Among the mate­ri­als pro­vided is a back­ground report on mass vio­lence and extrem­ism geared specif­i­cally to edu­ca­tors and pro­duced in coop­er­a­tion with START, the National Con­sor­tium for the Study of Ter­ror­ism and Response to Ter­ror­ism, at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land. This back­grounder pro­vides infor­ma­tion about pre­cur­sors to vio­lent activ­ity and estab­lish­ing appro­pri­ate sup­port and refer­ral net­works. A sec­ond resource is a unique les­son plan focused on enabling stu­dents to rec­og­nize pro­pa­ganda if and when they encounter it and to become more dis­crim­i­nat­ing con­sumers of online mate­ri­als. Par­al­lel resources for par­ents are avail­able as well.

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May 24, 2016 0

List of Americans who Joined ISIS Reinforces Statistical Trends

Douglas McAuthur McCain, among the Americans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain, among the Amer­i­cans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

NBC recently released the names of 15 U.S. res­i­dents who allegedly trav­eled to join ISIS since 2013. The names had been pro­vided to the net­work by an indi­vid­ual who claimed to be a defec­tor from ISIS and were report­edly ver­i­fied by West Point’s Com­bat­ing Ter­ror­ism Cen­ter and other coun­tert­er­ror­ism specialists.

While three of the indi­vid­u­als on the list – Abdi Nur, Yusuf Jama, and Dou­glas McCain – had already been pub­licly known, the other 12 had not. The list serves as a reminder that, while a con­sid­er­able num­ber of U.S. res­i­dents who have attempted to travel to join ISIS have been iden­ti­fied, there are still more whose iden­ti­ties remain unclear – as many as 250 accord­ing to law enforce­ment sources. The names and back­grounds of indi­vid­u­als on the NBC list also serve as vital reminders of the diver­sity of the indi­vid­u­als attracted to Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, and rein­forces what we do know about who these indi­vid­u­als are.

Indi­vid­u­als on the list came from across the U.S. Among the states rep­re­sented were Cal­i­for­nia, Mass­a­chu­setts, Min­nesota, New York , Ohio, Texas, Vir­ginia, and Wash­ing­ton. This geo­graphic diver­sity is no sur­prise. ADL’s analy­sis of U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism between 2009 and 2015 indi­cated that the indi­vid­u­als had been arrested in 32 states, as well as inter­na­tion­ally. States with the high­est num­bers of arrests included New York, Min­nesota, Cal­i­for­nia and Illinois.

One of the indi­vid­u­als on the list was female, and the rest were male. While fewer women have engaged in activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism than men, the pro­por­tion of women has increased in recent years. ADL doc­u­mented only 12 U.S. women in total linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy in the 11 years between 2002 and 2013, but there were 10 in 2014 and seven in 2015 (exclud­ing the woman on the NBC list); there has already been one woman out of the 11 U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy thus far in 2016.

Inter­est­ingly, the woman on the list, Zakia Nas­rin, was joined in her extrem­ist pur­suits by her hus­band and her younger brother. Of the 109 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2014 and 2015, at least 28 indi­vid­u­als were accused or impli­cated together with fam­ily members.

The aver­age age of the indi­vid­u­als on the list when they trav­eled to join ISIS was 22 years old. The old­est was 33 and the youngest 18. This is a lit­tle younger than aver­age. ADL data indi­cates that the aver­age age of U.S. res­i­dents who trav­eled or attempted to travel to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions abroad between 2009 and 2015 was 25 years old, while the aver­age over­all age of U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy was 28. How­ever, the num­ber of young peo­ple has been increas­ing as well; in 2015, there were a total of 25 out of 81 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy who were 21 years old or younger.

At least one of the indi­vid­u­als on the list claimed to have con­verted to Islam. A lit­tle over one quar­ter of U.S. res­i­dents who have been linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in recent years sim­i­larly were not raised iden­ti­fy­ing as Mus­lims, but rather con­verted or claimed to have con­verted to Islam, at least nom­i­nally. Impor­tantly, these con­ver­sions do not nec­es­sar­ily mean they are accepted as Mus­lims by the main­stream Amer­i­can Mus­lim com­mu­nity, nor does it mean they have been par­tic­u­larly obser­vant. As with other indi­vid­u­als linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, these con­verts embraced rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of Islam.

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January 8, 2016 0

No Sign of Slowdown for Islamic Extremism Arrests in the U.S. in 2016

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Janab, arrested January 6

Aws Mohammed You­nis Al-Janab, arrested Jan­u­ary 6

Two U.S. res­i­dents were arrested on Islamic extrem­ism related ter­ror charges in the first week of 2016 and a third allegedly com­mit­ted a shoot­ing on Jan­u­ary 7 on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Fol­low­ing record-breaking num­bers of ter­ror related arrests in 2015, these new arrests por­tend sim­i­larly high lev­els of Amer­i­cans engag­ing in plots and other activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy in the com­ing year.

Aws Mohammed You­nis Al-Janab, a res­i­dent of Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, was arrested on Jan­u­ary 6, 2015. Al-Janab, an Iraqi-born man who had moved to Syria and then come to the U.S. as a refugee from Syria in 2012, is accused of mak­ing false state­ments in a terror-related inves­ti­ga­tion. Al-Janab had orig­i­nally left the U.S. to fight with Ansar al-Islam, a Syr­ian ter­ror­ist group, between 2013 and 2014. Ansar al-Islam had been affil­i­ated with Al Qaeda until August 2014, at which time it merged with ISIS.

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, a res­i­dent of Hous­ton, Texas, was also arrested on Jan­u­ary 6, 2015. Al Hardan, who entered the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq in 2009 and is cur­rently a U.S. per­ma­nent res­i­dent, is charged with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion by attempt­ing to join the ISIS and with lying in his nat­u­ral­iza­tion application.

A third man, iden­ti­fied as Edward Archer of Penn­syl­va­nia, allegedly attempted to kill a law enforce­ment offi­cer in Philadel­phia on behalf of ISIS. There were at least four instances of Islamic extrem­ism inspired vio­lence against law enforce­ment offi­cers in 2015.

The two indi­vid­u­als arrested were Iraqi born men of Pales­tin­ian descent who entered the U.S. as refugees. They report­edly com­mu­ni­cated with each other regard­ing their extrem­ist aspirations.

The vast major­ity of U.S. res­i­dents engaged in ter­ror­ism related to Islamic extrem­ism are U.S. cit­i­zens.  Between 2009 and 2015, refugees accounted for only three per­cent of the U.S. res­i­dents linked to Islamic extremism.

In 2015, only 3 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism had entered the U.S. as refugees. One of the three, Harlem Suarez, entered the U.S. as a refugee when he was a child but appears to have con­verted to Islam and rad­i­cal­ized while in the U.S.; Suarez was a U.S. per­ma­nent res­i­dent when he was arrested for attempt­ing to bomb a Florida beach in sup­port of ISIS.

2015 also saw a spike in attempted domes­tic attacks. There were 18 plots dis­cussed in total in 2015, com­pared to 1 in all of 2014.

78 U.S. res­i­dents in total were linked to ter­ror­ist activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2015. A full list of the indi­vid­u­als, as well as exten­sive analy­sis, is avail­able in the ADL report, “2015 Sees Dra­matic Spike in Islamic Extrem­ism Arrests.”

In Octo­ber 2015, FBI Direc­tor James Comey indi­cated that there were 900 open inves­ti­ga­tions of sus­pected home­grown extrem­ists, the major­ity of which are related to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Since that time, there have been 12 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror, at least three of whom (San Bernardino shoot­ers Tafsheen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farooq and Farooq’s friend, Enrique Mar­quez) had not been mon­i­tored by law enforce­ment prior to the San Bernardino attack in Decem­ber 2015.

 

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